“Sometimes, just when we need them, life wraps metaphors up in little bows for us. When you think all is lost, the things you need the most return unexpectedly (p. 206).”
Imagine being a normal, healthy young adult with a promising journalism career until your body attacks your brain and you go mad. And, as your condition continues to deteriorate, no one can figure out why…not even the best doctors in the country. Brain on Fire tells the nightmarish experience of Susannah Cahalan as she struggled with just such a medical mystery and a frightening, nearly fatal experience.
Brain on Fire is based on Susannah’s award winning article, “My Mysterious Lost Month of Madness.” It is at once a fascinating and disturbing look at an experience that could happen to anyone. Right from the preface, Susannah draws the reader into her mysterious nightmare and her confusion. Because much of that month of illness is lost to her, she drew on her skills as a writer and journalist to piece together her experience. Not only is light shined on a relatively rare, but very disturbing medical condition, the story is a personal one. The entire family drops everything to save Susannah. In the end, no one is ever quite the same.
The devotion of Susannah’s family and friends, her honest and unflinching look at this devastating experience, her triumphs and her fears, and the brilliance and compassion of Dr. Souhel Najjar whose refusal to give up saved her life, all make for one of the most amazing stories I have ever read. Not only do I admire Susannah for looking her nightmare in the face and sharing it with the world, I see Brain on Fire as a work that will continue to have a profound effect on neurology and the study of the brain.
On a personal level, I was left with the feeling that I will never again take my brain for granted. The simplest tasks require complex actions from our brain. And damage, infection, or this newly discovered autoimmune disorder can take all of that away. As a person who has lived with bipolar disorder all of my adult life, I was particularly fascinated by Susannah’s story and her research. It hit very close to home. I’m so glad she was brave enough to write it, and I applaud all of the people that refused to give up on her. Because of her experience, many others have already been helped. Brain on Fire is more than a memoir of a hellish experience; it is a groundbreaking book in the field of medicine.
I highly recommend it. It will touch your heart; it will fascinate you, and it will forever change the way you look at mental illness.
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To learn more about the author visit her website: